July 19, 2013. Retrieved online September 6, 2013 from Alta LeCompte, Las Cruces Bulletin
The health effects of buying (and selling) veggies and fruits
[Excerpts below reprinted with permission: Read the complete Las Cruces Bulletin article]
How smart is your shopping cart?
If it’s not smart enough to remind you you’d be better off without the Moon Pies – and then guide you to make healthier choices – it’s not up to the standard set by New Mexico State University marketing professor Collin Payne.
His mission is to help consumers choose health-promoting foods while delivering to retailers profits as high or higher than they’re accustomed to.
“The goal of this job is to find out how businesses can survive by people eating healthier,” he said.
Inventing the cart of the future
Since his arrival at NMSU in 2006, Payne has studied consumer food selection behavior.
Now he’s moving what he’s learned in super markets into more stores, as well as into NMSU’s business incubator, Arrowhead Center. At Arrowhead, he’s inventing the shopping cart of his dreams. He’s partnering with Jason Koenig, Arrowhead Center’s launch director, to produce a prototype for food retailers.
Protecting retail’s bottom line
Payne’s early research with carts sounds simple: He used yellow tape to divide shopping carts into two compartments, one labeled fruits and vegetables and one for everything else.
“We found a 102 percent increase in people buying fruits and vegetables, without showing a decrease in supermarket profitability,” he said.
Pushing the cart
Payne said the Paso del Norte Health Foundation has been “super supportive” of shopping cart studies he’s conducted in El Paso with colleague Mihai Niculescu.
In September, Payne will be off to Pay ’N’ Save headquarters in Littlefield, Texas, where he will pitch his win-win scenario to the CEO and other top management of the chain that includes Big 8, Fiesta Foods and Lowe’s.
Research gets a new home
Also new in September will be the College of Business behavioral lab that will afford Payne, Niculescu and others a custom-designed space in which to study consumers’ choices.
“The lab can attract multidisciplinary collaborations (within and outside NMSU),” a university press release stated. “Investigators from departments such as marketing; management; economics; finance; accounting; public health; psychology; hotel, Restaurant, and tourism management; community extension, consumer and family Sciences; nutrition; anthropology; and sociology could benefit from the behavioral lab located in the College of Business. Higher multi-disciplinary research activity may result in increased visibility of the College of Business as a leader in creative efforts to help solve business problems related to human behavior and act as a liaison with the business community.”
An accidental researcher
Payne grew up in Utah, the child of a single mother aided at times by government programs while completing her own education and raising her children.
His first ambition when he arrived at Brigham Young University was to acquire the skills to help people directly through counseling. But a series of coincidences and his own expanding view of the world and his role in it sent him in a different direction.
Payne said he shops for food occasionally, seeking healthy options for himself, his wife and their three children. He acknowledged, however, he also has been known to reach for attractively packaged and displayed junk food.
“It would be a sad day if companies ever stopped making candy bars,” he said, “But shoppers need better tools.”